Russian sound artist Sergei Kasich is one of the jurors who’ll be convening in Linz in mid-April 2015 to select this year’s Golden Nica recipient in the Prix Ars Electronica’s Digital Musics & Sound Art category. In this interview, he goes into his personal take on sound, which tools he uses and how he applies them, and whether there’s a uniquely Russian approach to sound art.
NOTE: The 2015 Prix Ars Electronica entry deadline has been extended by a few days. Participants now have until March 15, 2015 to submit their media art projects at ars.electronica.art/prix!
How would you define the terms “music” and “sound” in your own words?
Sergei Kasich: I’m sure that for me the definition of music was changing in time, and I think it will change while I grow older and going through more experience. Years earlier I would start from the word “art form”, but now I probably would just say, that music is a special protocol for organizing sounds and noises, any audial material, in time and some times – not necessarily – in space. And I would admit that this protocol is rather old, maybe even outdated. Sound – on the one hand – is just a physical and physiological phenomenon – the mechanical oscillations of air, translated by our neuro-psychological apparatus. On the other hand – while being translated – it becomes a kind of media, because most of its use is communication. Music is one of the protocols for this sound-related communication.
You are living and performing in Russia – do you think that Russian sound artists have a special characteristic compared to sound artists from other countries?
Sergei Kasich: I would love to find out that really. I’m not sure now. I can tell for sure, that Russia has its history of experiments in sound and technology. But if we look in it, we find lot similarities with what was happening in the world. For example “graphical” or “drawn” sound developments happened almost the same time in 1930s – in USSR, Germany and USA.
It is interesting for me to talk about innovations, and the innovations are really dependent on technology and access to knowledge. But at the same time they do depend on creative freedom and social as well as economic conditions for the creators. I would say that all these aspects much more determine the nature of Russian sound art – and art and technology in general – then some cultural stereotypes of nationality and so on. There’s no “vodka” sound art, I believe. If you can find something you can call like that – it’s either kitsch, or just something, which you could find in any other country.
I also permanently answer to this question by action. Me and my colleagues from SA))-community, we produce monthly events in Moscow called “SA))m0st’_” which could be translated from Russian as “selfness”. The initial concept of those events was to make regular sound art showcases combining performances by Russian artists and guests from all over the world. We produced 14 events for now and had friends from Turkey, USA, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Latvia, Netherlands, UK and many other countries playing with us on one stage.
So “selfness” means trying to understand us in comparison to others. Not sure if we have found a lot of differences but we had a lot of fun definitely.
To crown it all, what we can call “sound art” is in the first place what calls itself like that. And there are only a few years in Russia a bunch of people started to manifest themselves as “sound artists”. Most of them are centered around SoundArtist.ru and were gathering in Theremin Center of Moscow Conservatory from 2005 to 2010. So the “formal” Russian sound art is quite young.
How does your typical working routine as a sound artist look like? Which tools do you usually use?
Sergei Kasich: I’m not sure that I have routine first of all (*laughs*). Maybe here some Russian special features start. But I can’t tell that I have some regular activities that could hold my days organized in a certain manner. It all happens as projects. So my life is project-based. They could be long-term, or short-term. For example we recently started a six-month long study course in our SA))_studio – and that requires a lot of regular managing activities from my side. It is less about art. Exhibition projects in Russia usually start unexpectedly and most often you don’t have too much time to think what to do and do plans and measurements. And you have to have some idea – preferably cheap to realize.
Most often it is badly organized and you have to be prepared to do everything by yourself and that tech-rider will be almost ignored.
Maybe that’s why most of our sound artists are d.i.y.-based persons, who can do coding, electronics, mechanics, scoring, performing, designing, web-programming, drawing, painting, writing texts of all kinds, managing, promoting, making video and photo documentations and so on… all in two hands! I also think that it could be true for a lot of artists in the world who have to support themselves.
I’ve never used Apple products and Ableton Live software because I don’t like their marketing strategies. Maybe I will sometimes. For interactions and simple mechanics and sensing I use Arduino. Also my background is music and scientific psychology not engineering or IT. So all I mentioned is like a standard toolkit for modern media arts.
Do you have some hints for sound artists who want to submit their work to the Prix Ars Electronica?
Sergei Kasich: First of all, I was such an artist previously and the only reason I am not submitting this year is that I’m in the jury. There’s not too much internationally recognized awards in this sphere of technology-based arts, and Prix Ars Electronica is one of the most significant. Add to it, that the Digital Musics & Sound Art category is not annual but it happens this year. So these are two reasons to apply. The third one is that now being in the Prix jury and knowing my jury colleagues, I realize that Ars Electronica is really oriented on an international community of interdisciplinary professionals but not on some academic institution. Which gives a hope, that the thing you have applied will be listened, watched, experienced and so on – despite of your relations to some of the galleries or institutions. And it’s still mystery for me how the jury works. But I really hope to watch it from inside.
Sergei Kasich was born in city of Sevastopol (Crimea) in 1984. He graduated (with honors) in 2006 from Lomonosov’s MSU (Moscow) as psychologist. After attending Moscow Theremin Center (2005-2010) he founded the SoundArtist.ru ( SA)) ) – the community for experimental sound and technological arts. He curates and produces events and projects supported by residents of SA)), including annual festival, monthly showcases and more. Sergey is the founder and curator of Moscow Sound Art Gallery SA))_gallery and Moscow Sound Art Studio SA))_studio. Since 2011 he teaches a course “Technical basics of interactive arts” in Rodchenko’s Art School in Moscow.